By Tony Attwood
One of the slightly amusing things one finds when editing Untold are the comments that come in which have either deliberately or accidentally misunderstood the thrust of an article.
Many of these are just so daft, and so regularly from the same people, that I tend to edit them out, but occasionally there comes in a misunderstanding which makes me wonder if I really have lost the ability to write coherent sentences.
One such instance happened this week and because I am in Australia and have a fair amount of free time I had a chance to consider while strolling along Manly Beach in the late afternoon sun.
A while back I wrote a little piece inviting a journalist, who had written an article about Mr Wenger, to show us what he could do in management by taking on a 9th division team where there happened to be a vacancy.
One reader wrote back at length saying (and I paraphrase) “so we can’t comment on managers unless we have been one, we can’t comment on bankers and their activities unless we’ve worked in banking….” and so on, and on. And on.
Now I didn’t think I was saying that at all – after all I wasn’t really expecting anyone to take on an onerous part time job just because I said they should – that would be too daft for words. Nor was I trying to stop commentaries – if I was I would write articles, not blogs with space for comments.
Rather I was making the point that if one is going to criticise a manager one either needs to do so because one has been or is a manager oneself and can point to ones experience, or one needs to take into account the broad perspectives of the issue and try and grasp the complexities of the situation.
Such perspectives, as I have suggested until I am green in the face, would be that not all players are available just because one club wants them, that many clubs are chasing the same player, that making a mistake and buying the wrong player can be a very costly error financially and psychologically across the club, that not every player can fit into every system and play with the players already at the club, and that some players simply don’t want to come to this club or even this country.
Now these points don’t fit well with the notion that one can say, “it is obvious to everyone that we need more defenders and Wenger is an idiot for not getting them.” On doing the sort of analysis that I have suggested in summary above, one might well still reach his or her conclusion again, but at least setting out the analysis would be better than the simple statement, “he’s obviously an idiot, get rid of him”.
I suppose I was quite taken by this commentary from a reader seemingly opposed to the editorial view of Untold, however, because it mentioned bankers, and by implication the banking crisis of recent years.
By chance I wrote a little about the banking crisis in its early stages, and in fact even mentioned the firm Long Term Capital Management (known in the trade as Short Term Crazy Banking) in June 2009 on Untold. A few other publications reprinted elements of the commentary, which was rather nice.
Now I am not a banker, and never have been, but I followed the crisis from the collapse of LTCM, through the refusal of Lehman Brothers to support them when they were in trouble (with the infamous, “We don’t deal with firms that are a bunch of capital letters”) and the retaliation of the rest of Wall Street who did bail out LTCM, in not supporting Lehman when they hit the rocks.
I felt able to write about such things because I read up on the issues, compared banks, looked at the whole process of collapse, talked to a few people, and drew some conclusions, while admitting along the way that there could be alternative explanations for some of the events that we were seeing unfolding.
But in essence my conclusion at the time was roughly right. Britain was in real trouble because Margaret Thatcher had liberalised the banking sector in London with the “big bang”. Canada would come out of it unscathed as they still had regulation.
No banker I, and indeed no football manager I, either. But I do like a bit of reasoned analysis which is not of the utterly simplistic “we need these two players and because we have never rectified that problem, Wenger should go” variety. (Or the financial equivalent, “kill the bankers” although that does have a certain appeal.)
The fact that with all their gas billions Man City, and with all their marketing billions Man Utd, are not top of the league, shows that, exactly as the Cost per Point analyses showed, money does not exactly equal points. Lots of money equals a few points, but that’s about it.
This simple fact shows that football is not about common sense, but is about something far deeper. The fact that Liverpool and Tottenham both wanted to go out and buy a couple of big names to replace the department Suarez and Bale shows that just because a club wants to do something, it doesn’t mean they can make it happen, not even with £80m or so to burn.
Indeed the fact that Liverpool found it so difficult to return to the Champions League after their fall from grace (there’s an Untold article way back in 2009 pointing out the problems they faced) shows that basic “we’re a big club, we’ve a right to be there” attitudes don’t work well either.
On the other hand the fact that sacking the manager does not bring success is fairly well shown – as Tottenham fans will surely attest.
Football is complicated on the pitch and off the pitch. As for finances, no economists can ever agree what is actually going on, let alone how to correct it. Put the whole thing together and what have you got? Something profoundly puzzling that can’t be explained away by saying that Wenger’s making mistakes and it is time for him to go.
Not least because who, of any particular merit, would want to come and manage at Arsenal, knowing, as he will do, that there is a good reason to believe that there is something naughty going on in PGMOL vis a vis Arsenal, knowing that it is downright impossible to get a good word for the club out of the media, and knowing that although most of the AAA don’t go to the Emirates, there are quite a few of them out there writing their simplistic attacks on the club and its manager every day.
In reality, you’d have to be mad to want the job. And are we really going to do better with a madman in the job? I hear the name Ronald Koeman being mentioned. Do you think he is really crazy enough to want to work at Arsenal? After all, look at what is happening to the last Southampton manager to come to north London. And the AAA is much bigger than the ATHTH.
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